Nov. 7 (UPI) -- A mystery animal wandering a Chicago neighborhood for weeks has been identified as a fox with a rare genetic abnormality that makes its fur white.
Residents of the Austin neighborhood on Chicago's West Side have reported animal sightings in recent weeks that were thought to be a coyote or a stray dog, but Chicago Animal Care & Control revealed the animal is actually a white fox.
The fox's white coloring is caused by leucism, a genetic abnormality that differs from albinism in that it involves only a partial, rather than full, loss of pigment.
"It's not very common at all," Nicky Strahl of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources told WLS-TV.
Strahl said the Chicago animal is the first leucistic fox she has ever seen.
"It had a genetic abnormality that creates different colorations, different patterns than what you'd normally see," Strahl said.
Chicago Animal Care and Control officials said the fox is a 5-month-old pet that escaped. The department said the fox's owner has a state permit for the exotic pet, which is not considered dangerous.
The animal's owner is helping officers with their efforts to safely capture the fox, which was last seen during the weekend sitting on a burned-out house.